Don't like Midwest weather? Wait ten minutes and it'll change.
I see we've already got a couple of baseball items to discuss, and spring training is just barely started. All right, then!
-It looks like Cardinals superstar slugger Albert Pujols is going to test free agency after the season. He's looking for a $300 million, 10-year deal.
Hmm. Last year, I'd've told Cubs management to open up the checkbook to try to steal away Pujols. But a 10-year deal for a 31-year-old player? I'll pass, thank you. You might get 3-4 more prime years out of him, then he gets paid for sitting at the end of the bench or struggling along on some other team, but still collecting checks from the
If Pujols is hard and fast on insisting on a very long-term deal, then I have to think the Cardinals management will say after this season "Thank you for the good years, Albert. Don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out." The Cardinals historically haven't made a lot of bad deals and I don't see them doing it here. A lot of the Cards fans I've heard are thinking along that line as well. The Cardinals, curse them, always seem to find good players to replace the ones they let go.
Buena suerte, Albert.
Meanwhile, on the North Side of Chicago, The Cubs have hired a new color man to replace the late Ron Santo on their radio broadcasts. And it's an old familiar guy to Cub Nation of the 1980s:
Good old #6-Keith Moreland. 'Zonk' is back! I've heard Moreland do some broadcasts last year. He knows his stuff and did a good job on the games. I used to enjoy watching Moreland patrol right field in that magical 1984 season. He wasn't great at it, but he gave it his all! I've seen him play in all three outfield positions, third base, first base, catch, and-one time-pitch an inning in an extra-inning affair when the Cubs ran out of pitchers. His time playing football at the University of Texas came in handy as well. One time there was a bench-clearing brawl and Moreland threw a tackle that would have stopped any running back in the NFL, let alone a baseball player.
He'll do fine in replacing Ron Santo. Which brings me to the role of the 'color' guy in a radio broadcast. He's the one that's supposed to provide insight on a given situation or play in the game and describe/relate it to the audience. Very important since the guy listening to his radio in the car can't see what's going on and needs a good call to 'see' the game in his mind's eye.
Santo played third base on some pretty good Cub teams of the 1960s. He isn't in the Hall of Fame, but based on his career statistics should be. One could argue that he was the best third baseman of the 1960s in MLB, or at least equal to the Orioles' Brooks Robinson, who is in the Hall.
He played the game despite having diabetes (in an era when treatment wasn't all that refined for it) and in later years lost both his legs and suffered numerous health issues, including the bladder cancer which eventually killed him last December. He was a tough guy who had time for the fans, and a hell of a baseball player.
But he wasn't a very good broadcaster.
The extent of his contributions to Cub broadcasts were mostly grunts and groans when the Cubs screwed up something (all too common) and cheers when they got a home run or pulled off a good play. That's OK if you're listening to some guy in the stands, but not in a major league broadcast. And occasionally you'd get an exchange like this:
Pat Hughes (Cubs' radio play-by-play): 'And Rodriguez is coming up to bat for the Nationals...'
Santo: 'Who's coming up to bat, Patrick?'
Pat Hughes: 'And Sutcliffe won the Rookie of the Year award in 1979.'
Santo: 'That would have been his first year in the league, right, Pat?'
Possibly the most famous (or infamous) Santo call happened toward the end of the 1998 season. The Cubs were in Milwaukee, locked in a classic with the Brewers, and playing for a slot in the postseason. Late in the game, a fly ball was hit out to Cub left-fielder Brant Brown, who...well, you can hear the call at the end of this snippet:
Listen to the anguish as the ball gets dropped! OH NO, NO!!!
(Incidentally, the Cubs did end up winning the game in extra innings that day.)
Now, I think Pat Hughes is one of the best play-by-play men in the business-but after 162 games broadcasting with Santo...if it were me, by the end of the season at least one of us would be out the window of the Wrigley Field radio booth!
It was to the point where Cub radio broadcasts were getting unlistenable. You got no thoughts on the game or any of the players in it. It's good to be a fan, but not necessarily if you're a broadcaster. I'm looking forward to next season's Cub games on radio-much more, unfortunately, than looking forward to the 2011 Cubs, which show every sign of being a colossal 'Meh' this year. Well, the Ricketts family has promised a championship 'in my lifetime', so I have that to look forward to. But Hughes and Moreland will at least make it interesting to listen to.